Congratulations to Ken Mills & Company...keep up the great work.
"War Games" was composed by Davy Jones and Steve Pitts and was originally considered for inclusion on the soundtrack of The Monkees' 1968 feature film, Head. Pitts was a friend of Michael Nesmith's from Texas, and Nez introduced the pair to each other in late 1966. They eventually entered into a songwriting partnership, composing such tracks as "Dream World," "The Poster," "Smile," "Party," "I'm Gonna Try," and "Changes" (another song that was floated for Head, and at the time of its recording, the name of the film).
Two versions of "War Games" exist. The first was recorded in January 1968 under the supervision of Nesmith. Present at the initial sessions were Michael, Davy, Steve, and Bob Rafelson, who offered the visual image he was getting while hearing the track being produced. "It sounds to me like four spade chicks all dressed in American flags and all wigglin' their asses at the same time, goin' down the street," reported Andrew Sandoval in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, after listening to the session tapes. "You dig what I mean? If you just start thinkin' on that, it sounds awful good." Nez replied with some hesitation. "Thanks Bob. That's very groovy. That's what we are playin', right?"
Sandoval discussed the first version of "War Games" in the liner notes of Rhino's 2010 deluxe edition release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees:
(Sandoval notes in his book that Michael most likely overdubbed the Hammond organ part at a future recording session.)
In February 1968, Davy went back into the studio with Lester Sill and Shorty Rogers and remade "War Games" in a slower arrangement with horns and strings:
"War Games" wouldn't be heard until version 2 appeared on 1987's Missing Links. Version 1 would make its debut on the 2010 deluxe edition of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
Go ahead and take a moment to vote in the poll below to show your preference between the two versions of the song:
One of several songs Peter wrote and recorded during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, "Tear the Top Right Off My Head" was relegated to the vaults in the late '60s, finally receiving an official release in 1991 on the Listen to the Band box set. I've always liked this song and feel it should have made the cut for the Birds album in 1968.
Lance Wakely, who played guitar and harmonica on the track, was a friend of Peter's from his days in Greenwich Village before The Monkees. He was also featured as a session musician on some of Peter's other early 1968 recordings, contributing guitar and bass to "Lady's Baby" and "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again." Dewey Martin, who drums on "Tear the Top," was a member of Buffalo Springfield at the time.
Micky Dolenz also took a turn with a lead vocal for this song. Fast forward to 58:40 to listen:
Andrew Sandoval discussed "Tear the Top Right Off My Head" in the liner notes of the 2010 deluxe edition release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees by Rhino Handmade:
"Tear The Top" was first previewed on the second season episode, "Hitting the High Seas":
It made its live debut during Micky and Peter's brief run of shows in 2015:
According to Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, studio engineer Pete Abbott assembled a stereo master for The Monkees' fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, on March 19, 1968 that included the following songs:
Through the Looking Glass
We Were Made For Each Other
I'll Be Back Up On My Feet
Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again
P.O. Box 9847
Zor and Zam
Sandoval noted that "Today's master also features 'I'll Be Back Up On My Feet' and 'Valleri' in some form of quasi-medley probably achieved through editing. They will be completely separated and resequenced on the final release. Likewise 'The Poster' and 'Alvin' are edited together in Abbott's compilation to form a medley."
The week after this line-up was created, the album was recompiled in a different sequence, dropping "Through the Looking Glass," "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again," and "Alvin," while adding Michael Nesmith's "Auntie's Municipal Court" and "Magnolia Simms," along with "Zor and Zam."
"Through the Looking Glass" would later be remixed for inclusion on 1969's Instant Replay, and "Long Title" would appear on the soundtrack of The Monkees' feature film, Head.
For what it's worth, when I'm listening to the Birds album, it's going to be the mono mix that gets the nod!
Check out this video I recently viewed on YouTube. It features the killer backing track for "We Were Made For Each Other" that was produced by Chip Douglas on November 4, 1967, combined with Davy's vocal from the officially released version of the song that appeared on The Monkees' fifth LP, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in 1968.
The released version found on the Birds album featured a new (vastly different, non-Douglas) backing track, and the results paled in comparison.
Here's how Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval described the Chip Douglas-produced backing track of "We Were Made For Each Other" in his book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
Today's version of "We Were Made For Each Other" shows just how much the group [The Monkees] will lose when they part company with Douglas. In his hands this otherwise schmaltzy ballad is transformed into a dramatic pop stunner with some country flavor, courtesy of Henry Diltz's banjo...Sadly, no further overdubs will be made to this excellent track, which is left incomplete after today."
Michael talked about "Tapioca Tundra" (the B-side of "Valleri," reaching #34 on Billboard) with Goldmine in 2013:
"It was one of those 'deep cuts' from a later album and had grown in approval and acceptance over the years, until the time when we decided to go on tour [in 2012], and it had become one of the most requested songs for us to do. The song itself is about the moment when the performer realizes that the songs he/she sings belong to the
people — the fans and the crowds — that love the song, and the performer is only there in service to that relationship. 'It cannot be a part of me — for now it's part of you.'"
Micky, Davy, and Michael performed Michael's song "Nine Times Blue" live during an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show in the summer of 1969.
Several different attempts were made recording the song, and each of them remained in the vault until years later. There's a version featuring Davy Jones singing the lead vocal (accompanied by Michael on acoustic guitar), recorded during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in early 1968:
Michael also tackled the song around the same time. Both of these attempts remained unreleased until the 2010 Rhino Handmade deluxe box set of the Birds album.
In the summer of 1968, Nez released his first solo album The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, an all-orchestral affair that included an instrumental take on "Nine Times Blue."
Nez actually demoed "Nine Times Blue" while recording Headquarters in early 1967:
Michael revisited the song once again in April 1968, accompanied by Red Rhodes on pedal steel and Chip Douglas on bass. It was this version that first saw the light of day on the 1987 compilation Missing Links:
Michael recorded "Nine Times Blue" once more in 1970, and it was featured on his initial solo album with The First National Band, Magnetic South.
"Alvin," a nursery rhyme composed by Peter's brothers Chris and Nick, was recorded a capella by Peter during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in January 1968. The track, according to Andrew Sandoval's liner notes for the 2010 deluxe edition of the album, was originally slated to appear on the LP until it was removed from the finished master at the last minute for reasons unknown. Peter also told Sandoval that he and Stephen Stills once performed "Alvin" a capella at a Buffalo Springfield concert. During this past weekend's concerts with Micky, Peter revived "Alvin" during his solo segment in the show.
Just like the similarly-minded "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" acted as a segue into "Pleasant Valley Sunday" on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., "Alvin" was set to perform the same function on the Birds album with its placement before "Daydream Believer." Here is the original track listing for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees when it was first compiled in March 1968:
The running order was later reconfigured, and "Alvin" became one of the songs that was cut. It wouldn't be officially released until the 1994 Rhino compact disc version of the Birds album.
Despite being a relatively obscure piece in the Monkees catalog, "Alvin" gets a lot of love from various YouTubers:
When the 3-CD deluxe edition of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released in 2010, fans were treated to a previously unheard alternate mix of "Auntie's Municipal Court," this time with Michael on lead vocals:
There are also two versions of "Zor and Zam." An early mono mix appeared on the last original episode of The Monkees television series ("The Frodis Caper") but wasn't officially released until the 1996 Missing Links, Volume Three collection:
An embellished production of "Zor and Zam" courtesy of arranger Shorty Rogers appeared on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in April 1968:
Last Friday evening, Micky and Peter debuted their new concert show in Palm Springs, California. "I'll Spend My Life With You" and "Tear The Top Right Off My Head" made their live Monkees concert debuts.
"I'll Spend My Life With You"
This song, long a favorite of Peter's, was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The Monkees recorded the track for their third album, Headquarters.
"I'll Spend My Life With You" was first put to tape during sessions for More of The Monkees, but this version remained unreleased until 1991's Listen to the Band box set:
"Tear The Top Right Off My Head"
One of several songs Peter wrote and recorded during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, "Tear The Top Right Off My Head" was relegated to the vaults in the late '60s, finally receiving an official release in 1991. I've always thought this track should have made the cut for the Birds LP.
"Tear The Top" was first previewed on the second season episode, "Hitting the High Seas."
Peter's friend, Karen Harvey Hammer, had a son named Justin who became the inspiration for Peter's song "Lady's Baby."
Here's a page of Andrew Sandoval's liner notes from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees deluxe edition box set detailing the complicated recording history of the track:
Davy Jones spoke of his fondness for "Lady's Baby" in 1994 when The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released on compact disc by Rhino Records:
"They laugh and joke about that ["Lady's Baby"] – it cost as much to do as 'Good Vibrations,' that record. But that was a true-to-life thing. He was living with a woman at the time, and she had a little baby, and that changed his life, you know? That gave him something to think about. He was being downtrodden by the studio in regards to his recording, his playing, his songs and everything else. But Peter Tork was the salt of the earth. It wasn't just Hari Krishna, waterbeds, and brown rice – that guy was a very accomplished musician. It's a nice song, it's true, it's got the warmth and everything of what he was living. I remember it so well – it's a real tune. I love it."
Peter performed "Lady's Baby" during his 'In This Generation' solo tour in 2013:
And here is The Monkees' version of the Boyce & Hart song, released in 1968 on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
For all those fans that missed it the first time around, I'm a big proponent for the reissue of this Rhino Handmade deluxe set of 1968's The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. A limited edition release in 2010, the box commands outrageous prices on eBay and other second-hand markets. I've often read that some collectors oppose a reissue because it lessens the value of their box. But in a world of downloads, YouTube, and torrent sites, the value of a "limited edition" doesn't have the same meaning it used to...